As the fourth most common cause of house fires, electrical problems in your home can cost you money and risk the safety of you and your family. Are there any simple, foolproof ways to help minimize the odds that you'll have an electrical fire in your home? Read on to learn some of the most common causes of electrical fires, and how you can design your home to reduce these risks.
Invest in arc-fault circuit interrupters (AFCIs) on all breakers
These types of breakers are designed to interrupt accidental "arcs" in circuits -- disconnecting them before they can produce enough of a spark or heat to cause a fire within the wiring. AFCIs are now required in most common rooms (living rooms, bedrooms, or family rooms) and have been since 2002. However, if your home was constructed before 2002 or has a number of rooms classified as "non-living areas," you may not have AFCIs in your home. Consult an electrician to determine the benefit of installing AFCIs in your home. You may even enjoy a reduction in your homeowner's insurance premiums by making your home safer.
Keep an eye on your cords
Another common cause of electrical fires is frayed or exposed wiring on your lamps, appliances, and other electrical devices. If a cord is in an out-of-the-way location, you may not even be aware that it has suffered damage until the sparks begin to fly. You may want to be proactive and periodically check behind couches and tables, as well as other locations that normally block your view of power cords, to determine the condition of each cord and replace if necessary.
Minimize your use of extension cords
Although extension cords can be very handy, they can also be a fire risk. When using an extension cord indoors, be careful to inspect the cord for any weak spots, and don't allow it to be used so long that it becomes hot. If your extension cord begins to feel warm, unplug it and let it cool down.
Invest in several heavy-duty power strips -- and divvy up those devices
An overloaded outlet is another prime location for a home electrical fire. Always avoid connecting more than one electrical cord to a single outlet. Purchase power strips with built-in surge protectors instead. As a bonus, these power strips often come with a warranty that will cover any damage to your electronic devices if, for some reason, the surge protector fails.